October 22, 2021

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Stream It Or Skip It?

Stream It Or Skip It?

Stream It Or Skip It?

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After all of the successful things Phoebe Robinson has accomplished in the past decade (hit podcasts, including one that begat an HBO series; best-selling books; befriending Bono; accompanying First Lady Michelle Obama on her book tour), it’s kind of surprising it’s taken her this long to put out a solo comedy special. Blame the pandemic?

The Gist: This isn’t Phoebe Robinson’s first HBO rodeo. Robinson previously co-starred in 2 Dope Queens, a showcase she and former correspondent for The Daily Show Jessica Williams hosted in 2018 and 2019, which itself was based on the podcast they’d launched in 2016. In that time frame, Robinson also published two best-selling books of essays, and has since started her own book imprint, co-starred in a streaming series (I Love Dick) and a couple of movies (Ibiza), hosted a Comedy Central series, Doing the Most with Phoebe Robinson, and toured America with former First Lady Michelle Obama to moderate Obama’s own book tour.

Robinson dishes, just a little bit, about her Obama experience at the close of her first solo hour special for HBO Max.

PHOEBE ROBINSON SORRY HARRIET TUBMAN HBO MAX REVIEW
Photo: HBO Max

What Comedy Specials Will It Remind You Of?: The stage and her style will straight up remind you of her time fronting 2 Dope Queens. As her special comes produced by A24 and directed by Kristian Mercado, you can expect that extra level of sheen. Mercado previously directed stand-up specials for Hannibal Buress, Sam Jay, London Hughes and Ilana Glazer (Glazer and Robinson, of course, also previously co-hosted a podcast together, too).

Memorable Jokes: She sets the scene straightaway. She has an international interracial relationship and you don’t, and you need to listen up, because they’re not well-represented in popular culture.

Hollywood only seems to know two extremes to depict couples like hers: Hot and heavy, or sad and mad. She’ll even describe some of them to you, if you need a refresher. She reflects: “All bae and I want is to watch something with black and white people in it, that isn’t Racism 101 or Artisanal PornHub.”

It’s not as if Robinson doesn’t sympathize or understand why Hollywood keeps making slavery and civil-rights movies. She gets it. She even has suggestions on how to brace yourself for the next movie. But as the title of her special also suggests, Robinson is over them. And she’s dating a white British man who has colonized her apartment! Sorry, Harriet Tubman.

There’s a solid bit about the debate over reparations before she digs in on her British bae, and how she’s just happy to be out of the home which she shared with her boyfriend throughout the first 18 months of the pandemic. You think you want companionship, she says to those who survived in self-quarantine, but at a certain point, she imagines her companion more like one of those activists with a vest and a clipboard on the sidewalk, looking to take just one more moment of your time.

The bulk of her hour focuses on her long-term relationship, from the serious issues of self-improvement to the more base and trivial, such as their active albeit unimaginative sex life and his uncircumcised penis.

But if you follow Robinson’s comings and goings, then you came here for at least one Obama story, right? On that, she delivers a closing bit about trying to hang with the First Lady without losing her cool and then some.

Our Take: Robinson is that friend you have who never has a shortage of stories to share.

It has not only gotten her a front-row seat to Michelle Obama’s book tour, but also a friendship with U2’s Bono, as well as the makings of three separate best-selling books. She even has a joke about her boyfriend’s hygienic practices that could make for a spin-off from her newest book, “Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes.”

But when she tells us about being the first in her family to see a therapist, I couldn’t help but think about how Comedy Central squandered her talk show earlier this year. They also gave Charlamagne Tha God a show this fall after he emerged as a leading voice on mental health for black Americans, and yet, have you heard anyone talk about either of their shows. Can you even find their shows on Paramount+? Hold on while I check…Charlamagne’s, yes; Phoebe’s, no. I don’t know what they’re doing over there, or if they even remember Comedy Central still exists. At least HBO Max has gotten back into the comedy game, a game they initially dominated like no other.

Robinson is a fine addition to that.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Anyone who can make a Lord of The Rings reference to one of her vital body parts and a Game of Thrones reference to another is all good in my books.

Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for actual newspapers. Based in NYC but will travel anywhere for the scoop: Ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.

Watch Phoebe Robinson: Sorry, Harriet Tubman on HBO Max

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